Pop Evolutionary Psychology Takes a Dive!

The Scientific American has a great takedown of some of the more popular evolutionary pscyhologists (especially Stephen Pinker). It's nice to see the scientific community challenging some of the more mythopoetic assumptions of evolutionary psych ("Caveman drag meat back to cave. Cavewoman take care of children. Caveman like many hanky panky. Cavewoman no like hanky panky.") I absolutely LOVE the conclusion:

Of course, some speculations are worse than others. Those of Pop EP are deeply flawed. We are unlikely ever to learn much about our evolutionary past by slicing our Pleistocene history into discrete adaptive problems, supposing the mind to be partitioned into discrete solutions to those problems, and then supporting those suppositions with pencil-and-paper data. The field of evolutionary psychology will have to do better.

For fun, read the comments by the victims of David Buller's apt critique.


Social Interfaces

It looks like car makers might (not holding breath) integrate a wider range of human desires into automobile interfaces.
Nissan has offered something along those lines in Japan, where in addition to providing tips for improving fuel efficiency, the Carwings Eco-Driving service lets you know how you stack up against people with the same car. Nass says bringing that kind of social networking to hypermiling could make make eco-driving more popular
WIRED magazine details how automakers want to help drivers manifest and track thriftiness and collective restraint.


The Kid's Got Talent

*11/29/08 update: After a bit more research, I found out that the actual singing is done by the acapella group Moosebutter (they have given the video artist permission to use their soundtrack). If you like what you hear, go over to their website and buy the track for $.99.


Globalist Sweatshop Management Approaches Crushing Higher Ed Teachers

Charles Mannin, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, recently pushed the humanity of the bulk of Tennessee higher ed teachers and students right out of his mind:

Charles Manning, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, acknowledged that adjuncts teach a large share of the classes at the board’s institutions. “They are critical,” he said. Asked if they were well paid, he said that they are “clearly not.”

At the same time, he defended the decision not to raise the maximum level. “That would raise expectations when we don’t have the money,” he said.

If colleges pay adjuncts more, Manning said, the institutions would have to cut sections, so that some smaller number of adjuncts would be paid, but others would be out of work, and some students wouldn’t get into classes. “We have an obligation to raise the levels of education,” he said. “The alternative for us is not to teach as many students, and we don’t think that’s right, either.”

Um, when did "raising expectations" become such a horrible thing? I guess when it coincides with any attempt to cram more students in front of the people you are crushing. I guess "being able to actually grade papers" and "freeing teachers from having to apply for food stamps" doesn't figure into any formula on how to "raise the levels of education." I'm surprised that the University of Tennessee regents aren't trying to emulate Chinese methods of melamine and lead injection as a way of "raising the levels" of food quality.


Seasons of Pain

November fourth is the day when my web surfing habits shift dramatically.

Real Clear Politics
Daily Kos/Red State
Drudge/Huffington Post

Weather Underground
Apartment therapy


Semiotics of Power, Part 4

As this POTUS campaign comes to a close, a candidate I earlier examined made a final pitch last night. I must say that this longform commercial had "shock and awe" value for the competing campaigns, despite its personal and voter-centered focus.


Thanks from the Rez

Southwestern writer, Tony Hillerman, has hung up his boots for good. I'll write a longer blog post about him later, but I just want to acknowledge the passing of this authorial force and great person.


I voted today

I hope you vote soon too...



Fall's Sentinels

Few scenes strike more poetically than autumn-clad maples guarding over a cemetery.


Fugue in Autumn Minor

Just a few pics from our recent Lake Itasca trip:



A Dilbert Take

Scott Adams, the cartoonist for Dilbert, a McCain contributor who concedes that he leans "Libertarian, minus the crazy stuff," commissioned a detailed study on whether an Obama administration or a McCain administration would be better for the U.S. Economy. The results of the survey of 500 economists is pretty startling. He writes up the study's findings in a blog entry, which contains some pretty interesting tidbits. I was a little surprised to learn that:
there are far more Democratic economists than Republicans, and both sides strongly support their candidate. Does that tell us anything useful at all?

Economists crossed party lines on the questions of International Trade, Environmental Policy, Immigration, Reducing Waste in Government, and Reducing the Deficit. I didn't include a question about a gas tax holiday, because the idea has already expired, but economists crossed party lines on that issue too. That suggests a degree of objectivity on an issue level. The crossover issues, plus the rankings, are important no matter who gets elected. That will tell you if your president has the right priorities.

Even with that caveat, Adams is careful to note the political affiliation of who holds what opinions. The majority believe an Obama administration would be better for the economy. His final point in his CNN writeup of the study seems the most telling:
Among independents, things are less clear, with 54 percent thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

While "independents" can mean almost anything, this test of intellectual honesty could be re-worded as "46% of nonaffiliated economists think Obama would be better." While that puts majority of nonaffiliated economists for the other two categories, it seems likely that McCain drew even less enthusiasm. Since the orthodox economic theory SHOULD favor a deregulating, free-marketer McCain, it seems curious that these middle-ground economists are warming to at least the idea of some regulation of markets. They aren't there with international trade, but it seems like they are concluding that domestic issues may be better handled with at least some of the intervention that an Obama administration proposes.


Political Hay Season

I hate to have so many political posts, BUT...

I wonder how much hay will be made of this Gore-esque claim...


Connecting the Dots

I'm not a fan of Joe Klein, but if the press starts to connect these two things, McCain is likely toast. We'll see.


Corporate Sclerosis

So, it appears that our terrorist watch "list" (it's really a database) is on the verge of collapse. It looks a lot like corporations on the government dole aren't as good at cooking up solutions as they often claim. Seems like citizens should be demanding more competition for government contracts, more transparent representation (a.k.a. less lobbyist access) and a more robust public debate over the things that affect the public.


Hang in there Georgia

Georgia is getting news out via blogger. New world meet the old world.



“I think people generally understand the 21st-century reality that this type of public information is going to be widely available.”

Your criminal and political information is now available to anyone at the click of a mouse. Nice.



One of the things I miss most about living in the West (Arizona and New Mexico) are the sunsets. Fortunately, we occasionally get some pretty spectacular ones (usually in July and August when the long daylight hours combine with rain clouds). Here are some shots from just a few evenings ago.


You Gotta Break it Down

Here's a great story about how 4300 folks went from normal to carbon neutral in a decade. It CAN be done if we try.


The Wild Turkeys are Gone

About two weeks ago, sport and I noticed a pair of young wild turkeys hanging out near our apartment complex.

They weren't particularly aggressive, but they were not very alarmed when we walked or drove by (sometimes close enough to touch). One evening we heard what sounded like mournful screeching from one of them. We imagined the other had died because we had not seen them together in two days. Of course, the next day, both were in the herb/flower garden strutting around happily.

We haven't seen these two welcome visitors in a week. Hope they made it to the river safely, or at least to a bigger garden.


"The Scarlet P"

Just got the new College Composition and Communication June 2008 issue, so naturally I picked one article to tear through and deconstruct. Sean Zwagerman's article "The Scarlet P: Plagiarism, Panopticism, and the Rhetoric of Academic Integrity" seemed the most likely suspect, especially considering I wrote my dissertation on the history of surveillance in an array of Internet technologies. I fully expected to hate, or at least feel vastly superior to, any argument I found in his article. Foucault's study on Bentham's never-built Panopticon usually anchors poorly-written English department scholarship. In an almost quotidian way, Dr. Zwagerman's article exceeded my expectations. He does a very nice job situating the paradox of the switch to what Lanham calls an economy of attention in the plagiarism wars. What used to be a valuable commodity (or is at least claimed in our nostalgic and rhetorical constructions of the past), "voice" and "originality" has given way to something much, much different. Zwagerman situates the reader between the ethical horns of the dilemma perfectly. He uses Michel Foucault and Friere (which almost lost me, to be frank) to discuss how power is given over to proprietary places like turnitin.com, etc. The paradox lies in how the drive for integrity gets lost the second one tries to ensure trust through algorithmic checkpoints.

The only disappointment is really an opening for me to take Zwagerman's argument farther. He never says what replaces originality (or its evil twin "intellectual property"). Using his ethical framework, I think it would be interesting to imagine a set of values and competencies beyond trust and solidarity. After all, the music industry is beginning to learn that music data isn't as valuable as embodied experiences. Forget the album. Sell the concert, the backstage party. Heck, make it into a 3-D movie and convince people they need to be there to see it first. For many dyed-in-the-wool compositionists, it may be hard to imagine what students and parents might sign up for if the essay dies, but I think there are plenty of three-dimensional, 360 degree, surround-sound writing activities that can help teachers, students, and writers destroy the concept of plagiarism. Will students continue to betray our trust? Of course. So, too, will teachers betray student trust. Does that call for a system that memorializes these rather small slights with things like academic death penalties and even firings? I hope not.


You Will Go Free

You Will Go Free (Tonio K)

you've been a prisoner
been a prisoner all your life
held captive in an alien world
where they hold your need for love to your throat like a knife
and they make you jump
and they make you do tricks
they take what started off as such an innocent heart
and they break it and break it and break it
until it almost can't be found

well i don't know when
and it don't know how
i don't know how long it's gonna take
i don't know how hard it will be
but i know
you will go free

you can call it the devil
call it the big lie
call it a fallen world
what ever it is it ruins almost everything we try
it's the sins of the fathers
it's the choices we make
it's people screaming without making a sound
from prison cells in paradise
where we're chained to our mistakes

well i don't know when
and it don't know how
i don't know how much it's gonna cost you
probably everything
but i know
you will go free

you can't see your jailer
you can't see the bars
you can't turn your head round fast enough
but it's everywhere you are
it's all around you
and everywhere you walk this prison yard surrounds you

but in the midst of all this darkness
in the middle of this night
i see truth cut through this curtain like a laser
like a pure and holy light
and i know i can't touch you now
and i don't want to speak too soon
but when we get sprung
from out of our cages baby
god knows what we might do

well i don't know when
and it don't know how
i don't know if you'll be leaving alone
or if you'll be leaving with me
but i know
you will go free


Nice Shout Out

Looks like someone in Baltimore caught my NDSU magazine article. It's nice to see some of my hunches about the feedback speed of social media play out in the blogosphere. I'll be honest, I'm thrilled when I get ANY feedback on what I write, so it's nice to have such a rapid response (and positive!) in such a public space.


It's Out

The email that turned into a mini essay is now online. I think the picture makes me look a bit psycho (there are two other, better, ones in the print magazine). Laura, thanks for giving me a chance to throw some thoughts out there.


The Problem with Normal

WIRED Magazine has an interesting, and semi-provocative essay on how medical science does little to distinguish between "normal" and illness by only focusing upon the latter.
Medicine has become all about finding a problem — a tumor, a heart attack, a failing kidney — and deploying advanced treatment technologies. In the process, we seem to have given up on measuring and tracking what constitutes normal.

Thomas Goetz asserts, I think correctly, that this results in overmedicalization (something sport's research uncovers as often being hyper-gendered).
Imaging and scanning tools are now so good at peering inside our bodies, they've surpassed our capacity to interpret the results. Many findings are what doctors call "incidentalomas," smudges that look like cancer but turn out — often after surgery — to be benign.

The article goes awry in two ways. The logical leap at the end of the article ("all [NIH] grants are given a "priority score," an indication of a project's novelty, originality, and "scientific merit." Normal need not apply") is poorly teased out. The NIH may consider the massive effects of a change of perspective as nonmeritorious, but that needs to be more firmly established. More important, there are many, MANY problems with linking boundary conditions of health with "normal." I don't have time to list them all here now (although I will try to write more on this later), but I will say that a more productive line of inquiry might emerge from embodied or phenomenological examination of these things. We should let people define what is livable and help them (as well as the experts) understand what lies ahead and give them the tools to make the most informed choice.


The Powerful Stay Powerful

The RIAA has stepped up its subpoena's to Midwestern universities by about 3000%, despite no reported spike in filesharing traffic. Meanwhile, Harvard hasn't received a single subpoena or letter of inquiry from the RIAA (at least according to WIRED magazine). What do YOU make of that?


True That

"Google does a great job of monetizing intent," says Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Research. "It knows what I'm searching for and it can show me relevant ads. But social networks are not about intent."

I could not have said it any better. Burke, my friends, not Aritstotle rules in the social media realm.

A Short Message

I would just like to say something brief to both of the Democratic Presidential candidates. (work safe, but salty language--beware tender hearts)


The Definition of Optimism

The guy at the bottom of this photo created this sortashocking ode to the guy at the top of the photo. I actually went to school with Halcyon Styn, the pink-perched and camera-bedecked compiler of the diptych (we graduated the same year, and were fellow members in the UofR Yeomen).

Here's the punchline. When I look at the guy at the top, I think "problem." When Halcyon sees the picture, he thinks "passion" and makes the diptych. Halcyon, my friends, demonstrates what we call optimism.


Information Bombing

It looks like Apple and/or Radiohead might be gaming popular music algorithms. While the masters of payola may be crying foul, I say w00t yet again to the surfers of the information economy. I, for one, welcome our new overlords...


Telling the Stories that Need Telling

My colleague and friend, Dr. Christina Weber does work on women soldiers' experiences in war. Her work was featured on National Public Radio story this morning. I'm really glad her work is getting wide coverage, and proud that she is one of us North Dakotans.



In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty infatuated with Twitter. Unfortunately, I'm getting a bit fatigued with the demands of my constant life-stream.

I'm catching a Twitter cramp. Perhaps that makes me a "twamp."

I'll be here all week...




Raiders of the Lost Art

Last night, sport and I went to the opening event of the Fargo Film Festival, a screening of the now-legendary fan homage to filmmaking, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. The two directors were in attendance and taking questions, which I suppose is pretty nice.

I have one problem with these events. These SoCal visitors always come off a tad...well...snooty. I'm pretty sure I spent just about as much of my life in Southern California as these guys have. I'm also pretty sure that between my New Media and Old Media experience making films, music, soundtracks, podcasts, and other assorted goodies makes me more than qualified to ask some craft questions (like about their storyboarding, production decisions, etc.) as well as more general life questions. Still, I don't like the way these events frame audience members as local rubes who MUST ask questions like "aw shucks, how do you feel being so durn inspire-ational?"

The really poor-quality fan tribute was amazingly watchable and fun. Too bad the Q&A session wasn't nearly as fun.


Hacking Democracy

Apparently, Comcast understands how to crudely exercise political manipulation by blocking out dissenting views with the "sleeping dwarves" strategy. Political hacking is pretty common (we call it "forum control" in rhetoric), but this is a pretty transparent and crude form.


The Re-vision of Experience

The Mississippi's mighty, but it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across with five steps down

From "Ghost," by Indigo Girls

I've recently walked across these headwaters at Lake Itasca. To be honest, I am more impressed with the concept than the experience. What impresses me even more than the almost-Zeno's-paradox of striding over the mighty Mississippi in "five steps down" is the experience of finding new meaning in familiar words and lyrics with the addition of experience. This constant destruction and re-constitution of life's details is what I always imagined infuriated a too literal Bishop Berkeley. Life seems haunted with these re-creative acts of perception.


Fun with Science!

What ELSE do you do on the coldest day of the year?

You boil water and throw it in the air to see it freeze before it hits the ground.

Negative thirty degrees can be deadly AND fun!


Proper Ice Nosh

What does one do when the temperature is headed for negative 35 degrees F with a 50-below windchill?

Why, make laid-back tacos for dinner, of course. You might call them "nachos," but when blue-corn tortilla chips meet refried beans, smoked cheddar, New Mexico red AND green chile, that's now what WE would call them.


Climbing Out of the Cave

When I moved to Fargo, a friend of mine (who would know all about the area) called it a "cold, dark place." While I don't agree with the overall assessment, getting from solstice to happy can be a slow slog. My last few posts reflect the anticipation and ennui that accompany this trudge to the surface. Although I'm not really that sad, it has been gratifying to have friends and family reassure me with calls to ingest the magic pill.

What is this pill, you ask?

Green chile.

Well, I've been partaking of this magical substance. Yes, it must be grown in New Mexico. Yes, it should be roasted to an even char on the outside and peeled. And, yes, it is best ingested in an almost-pure form in a stew:

or as part of breakfast:

Check, check, and double check.

Much better, thanks!


econopolitical confrontation?

Can anyone tell me why this doesn't fall under the heading of "terrorism"? I realize that it isn't politically correct to say that about a young white male American wannabe entrepreneur, but threats and violence to create maximum political effect is a textbook definition.


The Shame of North Dakota

I have heard the sobs of soldiers who lost comrades in Iraq. We have ALL lost friends and fellow Americans in that war.

This makes me ill.


The Blahs of February

Right now, things are looking a little dark.

On the surface, things should be fine. I just got an article accepted to one of the premiere journals in my field, which should help cement my growing tenure case (that is, if my other articles and chapters in the pipeline ever come out, and my special issue doesn't fall victim to some unforeseen calamity). Sport and I are getting out quite a bit as well. Yesterday, I got to shoot some hoops, do some pullups and ride the bike. Today? We did our long run.

Success and getting around doesn't seem to cut through the blahs some days. What makes it doubly difficult is that success can actually cause some of these darker moods. It's not like I live for the finish line, but it stinks when when the sight of the finish line depresses me.



One of the holy grails (yes, there are many) in startup companies is creating a sense of transparency without giving away your proprietary "secret sauce." Tesla motors--perhaps the most prominent automotive startup commercializing electric vehicles--is trying to walk this line by using a variety of blogs to personalize some of the company accomplishments.

Other startups could learn a thing or two by studying and emulating this approach.


Your New Mavericks Champion

Nice job Greg Long! Twenty four seems old in the surf world, but it's not too old for big wave surfing.


January Thaw

Today, Fargo made it up to 41 degrees. How did sport and I celebrate this near-record event? We went for a run, of course.
I didn't even bother to groom, the sunny joy had me so intoxicated.

I know. I'm getting dangerously close...

The best part was that our chosen detour from course prepping included the ability to wear shorts in the January weather.